Eastern Barred Bandicoot

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Eastern Barred Bandicoot
Perameles gunnii
Australia: endangered EPBC listed
Victoria: critically endangered FFG listed
Tasmania: vulnerable
SA: extinct

The Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) is a small (rabbit sized) marsupial with a long pointed nose. Colour varies from yellowish-brown above to grey underneath and a light colour on upper side of tail. The most distinguishing feature is the three or four pale bars on the hindquarters.

Formerly widespread throughout western Victoria, the population in Victoria is estimated to be as low as 150 animals It is now confined to only a handful of locations, the only wild population being near Hamilton in the west of the state and four re-introduced sites. Eastern Barred Bandicoots are extinct in South Australia but still occur in Tasmania, however they are genetically different to the Victorian population.

Habitat & ecology

Natural habitat comprises tall, dense native grasslands and grassy woodlands, although remnant populations have adapted to modified habitats provided there is adequate shelter and effective control of predators. Feeding is carried out at night and being omnivorous the diet varies according to the availability of food which includes beetles, crickets, worms, caterpillars and plant material such as berries, tubers and bulbs.

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Reintroduced sites of which only four remain viable

In Victoria, home range varies between 13 to 20 hectares for males and 2 to 3 hectares for females with some overlap in areas. Breeding can occur throughout the year but more prolific between July to November and the success of a breeding season is dependent upon conditions such as the availability of water, food and cover. With an average litter size of 2 and a capacity to have multiple litters per breeding season the population has the potential to expand rapidly under ideal conditions, particularly as offspring have a capacity to reproduce after only 4 months of age. In reality however, optimal conditions are infrequent and high mortality has retarded any significant expansion. During drought conditions population recruitment is low.


Major threats are loss of native grassland and grassy woodland habitat and predation from foxes, cats and dogs.

Management actions

Management is carried out in accordance with a Recovery Plan and through a recovery team.

A captive breeding program at Melbourne Zoo provides both security to the population and also a means of producing animals for reintroduction into the wild. Self-supporting populations protected by fox proof fences have been established at Hamilton Community Parklands and Woodlands Historic Park. Re-introduction into the wild without protective fencing has also been undertaken at ‘Mooramong’ near Skipton, Lake Goldsmith Wildlife Reserve near Beaufort, Floating Islands Nature Reserve near Colac and on a private property ‘Lanark’ at Branxholme. Success has varied with drought conditions having a negative impact at all sites in recent years.

All reintroduced sites have declined since the late 1990’s and have not recovered. The recovery plan is now focusing on developing fewer sites such as Woodlands, Moomerong, Hamilton and Mt Rothwell which have been the most resilient sites. The non productive reintroduction sites will be abandoned.

The drought has a major impact on populations and the recovery plan will look at ways of drought proofing future re-introductions.

Actions for Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery 2009

Woodlands Historic Park (Parks Victoria) – actions by Parks Victoria

  • Monitor and manage predators esp. Foxes according to site management protocols: Predator activity targets met at each reintroduction site.
  • Upgrade fencing for better fox control
  • Reintroduce bandicoots from captive breeding program to re-establish population when predators and browsing managed to required low levels.
  • Undertake population monitoring.
  • Monitor condition of habitat.

Mooramong (Private property) – actions by DSE

  • Control predators to protect EBB population.
  • Undertake population monitoring once per year
  • Monitor condition of habitat.
  • Involve local community including friends groups in Eastern Barred Bandicoot activities and promote the Recovery Program.
  • Protect habitat from fire.
  • Restore and extend habitat.
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Juvenile female

Hamilton Community Parklands (Southern Grampian Shire) – actions by DSE

  • Control predators to protect EBB population.
  • Manage Kangaroo numbers to prevent overgrazing and loss of EBB habitat
  • Maintain predator proof barrier fence.
  • Manage environmental weeds.
  • Involve local community including friends groups in Eastern Barred Bandicoot activities and promote the Recovery Program.
  • Undertake population monitoring at least once per year, more frequent if possible.

Mount Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre (Private property)

  • Build new, renew, and maintain predator-barrier fence at Mt Rothwell.
  • Manage all mammalian grazing pressure to prevent overgrazing and loss of EBB habitat
  • Undertake population monitoring and monitor condition of habitat by recovery team.

Melbourne Zoo

  • Manage captive population to meet population targets and provide 50 Eastern Barred Bandicoots for release each year.
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Removal of noxious weeds and predator control by CVA volunteers at Woodlands Historic Park

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A 7 km long predator proof fence being constructed with help from CVA volunteers at Woodlands Historic Park

Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery update 2013

The success of the recovery program to-date has been achieved through co-operation between Parks Victoria, Conservation Volunteers, Zoos Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries, National Trust and Mt Rothwell Conservation Centre who have worked together to secure remnant populations, increase the captive population and create new predator proof areas for releases that will provide additional security for this species into the future.

During 2013, a three day Population Viability Analysis (PVA) workshop was run by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (IUCN Species Survival Commission) hosted by Zoos Victoria. The workshop highlighted the need to establish multiple open-range populations, managed as meta-populations, and the establishment of larger populations.

Zoos Victoria is using genetic analysis of captive and open-range populations to select new animals for captive breeding.

Hamilton Community Parklands - update 2013

The Hamilton Community Parklands reserve contains a 100 ha fenced off fox proof area. Population monitoring was conducted on three occasions during 2012/13. In November 2012 trapping was conducted over 5 nights instead of the normal 2 nights to more accurately determine the sites population. Results indicate the population is around 120 bandicoots which is higher than previously estimated and may have reached 200 animals in 2011, but the population is known to fluctuate considerable over the 5 year monitoring period since 2007.

Despite checks of the predator proof fence 3 times per week foxes were detected breaching the fence in April 2013. The access points were identified and sealed off and three foxes removed by May. This is the first time foxes have entered the area since 2007.

Two harvests of 10 animals each were undertaken to support a trail release at French Island during 2012 and also support Zoos Victoria captive breeding program.

Other works in the broader Hamilton Community Parklands included rabbit warren destruction work funded by DEPI, destroying approximately 20 warrens through the Hamilton reserve, which have been subsequently replanted with grassland species by Conservation Volunteers. Environmental weed management across site to remove gorse and pittosporum was undertaken as well as burning for fire protection and grassland management conducted in January 2013.

Mt Rothwell

This population has been competing against an increasing rabbit population due to abundant grass cover but natural predation from native predators combined with rabbit control programs has seen the Bandicoot population rise to an estimated 300 animals.

Mooramong - update 2013

The Mooramong unfenced population is extinct and no further releases into this unfenced site occurred. Mooramong is currently participating in the captive programme, and held between 2 and 5 animals in a fenced, predator-free pen

Woodlands Historic Park - update 2013

Conservation Volunteers working in partnership with Parks Victoria completed a 7 km predator proof fence in 2012 which now provides a secure area of about 300 ha for Eastern Barred Bandicoots. During 2012, works focused on a rabbit, fox and feral cat eradication program, followed by on-going monitoring to ensure no foxes were present. The first releases of EBB's were planned for late spring 2012.

Since July 2013, 45 Eastern Barred Bandicoots have been released with a mix of captive and relocated animals to give the best genetic makeup for successful breeding. Results from the 2013 trapping indicates good weight gain, dispersal rates and breeding. Three new born unchipped bandicoots were recorded in December 2013 which is an indication of good habitat and successful breeding taking place.

Another planned release of captive bred Eastern Barred Bandicoots from the Zoo and Mt Rothwell is planned for March/April 2014.

On-going management at Woodlands includes seasonal woody weed removal, grassland habitat planting and rabbit control. An important task is maintenance and monitoring of the predator proof fence.

Once the population of Eastern Barred Bandicoots is established there are plans to introduce some new Eco tour nature wise programs, allowing volunteers to be part of monitoring the Bandicoots. This will include general cage trappings and hopefully camera work and spot light tours..

The Eastern Barred Bandicoot reintroduction project at Woodlands is a significant contribution to the long term conservation of this species. By the end of 2014 it is expected the Eastern Barred Bandicoot population at Woodlands could be as high as 200 animals. This population will play an important role along with other Eastern Barred Bandicoot projects which have large predator free areas such as at Hamilton Community Parklands, Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre and Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Help required at Woodlands:

Do you want to play a direct role in saving one of Victoria’s most threatened marsupials?? After losing 99% of their natural grassland habitat the main threat to bandicoots are foxes. This is where we need your help. Patrolling the 7km fence which protects the enclosure from foxes is the key to the bandicoots survival. This task is a great way to enjoy a beautiful walk at Woodlands Historic Park, keep fit, walk your dog, enjoy nature and most important direct action in saving a threatened species. We are creating a roster of regular fence patrollers to support our Project Officer. All Volunteers will undertake a program briefing and training in fence maintenance. Spaces are limited so get involved. No previous experience is necessary, you will be trained in all activities. Learn new skills, meet new people and be part of a fantastic team. Contact Travis Scicchitano, Woodlands Project Officer, Conservation Volunteers, (03) 9326 8250

Serendip Sanctuary

Conservation Volunteers Australia has a Wild Futures project at Serendip Sanctuary, Lara. With support from Parks Victoria, the CVA volunteers have refurbished old aviaries to make them suitable for holding Eastern Barred Bandicoots. This has included new walls, roofing and replacement of ground substrate. A 4 hectare octagonal pen which includes seven internal fences has also been restored. This pen has predator proof skirting around the entire area. Rabbits and weeds have been removed and a number of native grasses and shrubs are being planted. There are currently 11 Eastern Barred Bandicoots being raised that will be moved to the larger enclosure prior to release.

Apart from specialist work by selected contractors and Parks Victoria much of the work has been undertaken by volunteers. They are from a wide number of different places, e.g. school groups, corporate teams, a group from Brotherhood of Saint Laurence, University clubs and a regular group of volunteers that come out each week that are made up mostly of students from the Gordon Tafe in Geelong, local community members and Internationals. Matt Landy is the CVA Grasslands Project Officer coordinating this project, 0418171399.

Werribee Open Range Zoo

The Zoo plays a key role in implementing Zoos Victoria Fighting Extinction Strategy for the Eastern Barred Bandicoot. The Werribee Open Range Zoo also provides part of the Australasian Species Management Program for Eastern Barred Bandicoots and is part of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team. Captive breeding has been carried out at the zoo and 36 breeding pods established to assist in captive breeding success. The Eastern Barred Bandicoot is capable of giving birth to up to five joeys five times a year (with an average of 2-3 joeys each time). So if conditions are right the population can quickly expand.

A significant project at Werribee Open Range Zoo has been the completion of predator proof fencing which now provides opportunity for 190 Ha of secure predator free habitat.

Work is being undertaken to optimise habitat for the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, which includes ripping rabbit burrows, treating the enclosed area to remove foxes and feral cats and restoration of grassland habitat. There is a 5 year strategy to remove rabbits, improve native grassland habitat and gradually reintroduce bandicoots as habitat improves. To-date thousands of rabbits have been removed through the baiting program. Releases into the predator free areas commenced in late 2112 with releases of small numbers planned for 5 different predator free areas within the Zoo during 2014 and beyond. These Eastern Barred Bandicoots will not be as intensively managed by Zoo keepers but a regular trapping program will enable keepers to monitor their condition.

The Werribee Open Range Zoo has two hand reared Eastern Barred Bandicoots that have been added to the collection for encounters with visitors and VIPs. These two animals are doing an important job advocating this elusive species to visitors and VIPs.

French Island

A planned release of 20 non breeding Eastern Barred Bandicoots will be carried out on French Island in July 2012. At this stage it will just be a trial release of around 20 bandicoots to determine if a full scale release will cause any problems. The release will comprise (10 females and 10 sterile males) which are mainly sourced from the Hamilton Community Parklands population. They will be released in two groups of ten animals composed of five females and five males. A monitoring program conducted by Rebecca Groenewegen from Melbourne University will involve radio tracking to monitor movement and dispersal.

Population variations - during the cooler months there is a peak in the number of pouch young, this declines as the weather gets warmer. It is now thought this peak is due to the longer nights in the cooler months and high energy food items such as beetle larvae being more available due to the less compact soils. Previously it was thought that increases in pouch young were due to rainfall but results of research do not support that theory.

If you are interested in assisting with the Eastern Barred Bandicoot project you can register your interest


See also:

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